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Confirmation Bias and Making Life Choices

https://www.nirandfar.com/2017/10/confirmation-bias-terrible-life-choices.html

nirandfar.com

Confirmation Bias and Making Life Choices
Nir's Note: This post is co-authored with and illustrated by Lakshmi Mani, a product designer working in San Francisco. You walk into your first yoga class. You're a little insecure about your weight and how your yoga clothes cling to your body revealing every flaw. You're nervous about making a fool of yourself.

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Confirmation bias

Is the human tendency to seek, interpret and remember information that confirms pre-existing beliefs. 

It affects every choice you make and it all happens in the background withou...

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Confirmation bias affects you in 3 ways:

  1. How you seek information - how you look at the world around you
  2. How you interpret the information in front of you - the information you process tends to favour your belie...

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Being wrong and self-image

You seek evidence that confirms your beliefs because being wrong feels unpleasant.

Being wrong means you’re not as smart as you thought. So you end up seeking information that confirms...

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Processing contradictory information

When it comes to information to process, it takes effort to hold opposing hypotheses and try to evaluate evidence for and against each one

So your brain optimizes for the fastes...

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Instinctive reactions

To fight back against cognitive biases, you need to evaluate your instinctive reactions.

The next time you run across facts that completely confirm your worldview, stop. Think about th...

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Overcoming hyperbolic discounting

  • Empathize with your future self: You put things off to future you because it’s easy to assume that future you has boundless energy and motivation. Unfortunately, that perfect vision is not real.
  • Pre-commitment: You increase your chance of success by removing a temptation future you may try and weasel out of.
  • Break down big goals into small manageable chunks: Big goals take a long time to achieve and so are susceptible to the far-off reward curse of hyperbolic discounting.

Distinction bias

Is the tendency to over-value the effect of small quantitative differences when comparing options.

For example: we think a 1,200 square foot home will make us happier than a 1,000 square foot home. We think earning $70,000 a year will make us happier than earning $60,000 a year.

Mostly encountered in when we are in the situations of buying something new.

Overcome distinction bias

  • Don’t compare options side by side: In comparison mode, we end up spending too much time playing “spot the difference.” Instead, evaluate each choice individually and on their own merit.
  • Know your “Must-Haves” before you look for something to buy: that way, you won't get suckered into features you don’t really need.
  • Optimize for things you can’t get used to: your happiness will adjust back to anything that is stable and certain like your income, the size of your house, or the quality of your TV.

Cognitive biases

Cognitive biases

...are common thinking errors that harm our rational decision-making.

We don't always see things as they are. We don't simply glean information through the senses and act on it; instead, our minds give that info their own spin, which can sometimes be deceptive.

Optimism Bias

Is our tendency to overestimate the odds of our own success compared to other people's. 

Overly optimistic predictions can be dangerous, leading us to waste time and resources pursuing unrealistic goals. In the real world of business, things don't always work out for the best, and it serves us well to know when conditions are not on our side.

How to control the optimism bias

  • Be skeptical of your own rosy expectations for your work. 
  • Assume projects will be more difficult and more expensive than you initially think they will. 
  • Don't trust your good ideas to manifest through positive thinking - be ready to fight for them.
  • Trust the numbers. Numbers are firm but fair, and getting intimate with your business's cash flow can help you make more rational decisions.

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